Bird and Man

Bird soaring high above Castries    harbor.
Bird soaring high above Castries harbor. (Visible as just a dark speck against the clouds in photo.)

Against a backdrop of azure sky and early-morning sunrise, a solitary bird flew. Uncaring of or oblivious to the fact of being watched by a man from his  wooden balcony, the winged animal easily defied the gravitational laws that kept the man securely bound to earth. Circling. Climbing. Gliding on accommodating wind currents beneath its outstretched wings, the bird seemed to revel in its aerial display.

To soar like that… the earth-bound, human spectator thought. To break through the daunting barrier of physiological and psychological restraints… To feel the heady exhilaration of self-propelled flight… Not the cramped mundanity of the 737 mechanical aerodynamics experience, but the real thing! Without the mechanical props. Without the fear of mechanical failure. Without the pressurized reminder of the ever-increasing fragility of mechanical flight.

Untamed eyes trained on the world below, the bird dropped fifteen to twenty feet before turning in a tight arc and climbing upward again. Another wind current caught it, lifting it higher. With wings spread, bird-feet pressed close to feathered underbelly, small, beaked head cocked to one side, the bird rode the wind horizontally. There was nothing forced or mechanical about its flight. The grace of its natural motion was a thing of quintessential beauty; not even Michelangelo with all his genius could have captured this magic. It couldn’t be caught on canvas! It had to be observed. It had to be seen. It had to be experienced with all of one’s senses fully alert and attuned to this singularly breathtaking dance in the sky.

With gentle longing encased in a half-smile of unfettered admiration, the man continued to watch the bird. He felt an inexplicable kinship to it. And he envied its freedom. The freedom of a simple, uncomplicated life untouched by the myriad complexities inherent in human nature and endeavor.  Or the freedom to seemingly hang almost motionless against a wide expanse of sky, cloud, and nothingness. In a moment of unrestrained abandon, he wished the moment could last forever—frozen in this space and time so future anthropologists could pore over its meaning, and render interpretation or misinterpretation to a past encounter. Bird and man. Two sentient beings caught in a still-life tableau of enduring custom; caught in one of life’s joyous yet poignant interludes.

The bird made another effortless turn to the east; to the still rising, golden glory of the sun. For the space of a few heartbeats, it appeared framed against the fiery orb like a tapestry in the sky. Then, it turned left to fly in a northerly direction before doubling back to complete several loops in an awesome finale. There was no prior announcement or warning. No indication of the coming final act—only another turn to the south, and the rapid flapping of its wings to take the bird farther and farther away from the man until it became lost in the distance.

A tremulous sigh escaped the man. He experienced a momentary sense of great loss. That, too, he couldn’t explain. Comforting himself with the possibility of a future encounter, he reentered his living room through the open front door. The rest of the world immediately rushed at him. An anchorwoman on a North American television news channel was reporting the latest events in Afghanistan; the atrocities in Iraq; the rising price of oil on the world market and its implications; America’s never-ending challenges to Europe’s preferential Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific banana regime. He grimaced, and longed for the bird again.

Author’s note: What I’m trying to say with all these words is this: Now and again we need to chill, to relax, watch the world go by and enjoy its mysteries, wonder, and what’s left of its beauty. Watch a bird soar, get lost in one of Don Charisma’s sunsets or, better yet, soak in a live one and feel rejuvenated.  There’s still so much that we should be appreciative of if only we took the time to look -really look- at the living art that’s all around us. 



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